In an effort to boost the movement toward goods made right here in the good old U.S. of A., Walmart is kicking off a two-day summit bringing together other retailers as well as government officials and suppliers. The goal seems to be some kind of big brainstorming session to figure out how to get more American-made products in stores and jobs back on our shores.
The summit starts today and is expected to have about 1,500 attendees, reports the Associated Press, ranging from Walmart bigwigs, to the governors of eight states, to fellow retailers.
Walmart had pledged to buy $50 billion more in U.S.-made goods in the next 10 years, which is only about 10% of what it will sell this year. That number could be boosted to $500 billion in Made In America stuff, argues Walmart, if other businesses join in the effort as well.
If you’ve got your skepticism cap on you might be thinking, “Hey, this just seems like a nice PR move to make everyone forget about Walmart’s oft-criticized labor practices, and the fact that it played a big role in sending those manufacturing jobs overseas in the first place!”
You’re not alone — other critics think it’ll take a lot more than a big of singing “Cumbayá” at the summit to rejuvenate the American-made market.
“It’s a very positive PR move for the company,” said Burt Flickinger III, president of retail consultancy Strategic Resource Group. “But it took two decades to unwind the American manufacturing base and it will take two decades to bring it back.” He says what will be brought back will only be a fraction of business sent overseas.
On the other hand, the cost of manufacturing goods is rising over in Asia, as well as the price companies have to pay to transport those products back here. Walmart says manufacturers have discussed “tipping points” in these costs which could make it illogical to make things overseas. The company also says however, at the same time, it doesn’t want to charge customers more for U.S.-made products.
“It’s an economic advantage when you have the wind in your back, instead of having the wind in your face,” said Hal Sirkin, a senior partner and managing director at the Boston Consulting Group and a consultant to Walmart. He thinks the Made-In America movement could bring 100,000 jobs to the country in the next 10 years.
Wal-Mart set to hold “made-in-America” meeting [Associated Press]